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  • Writer's picturePeter Miller

The Wisconsin Coaching Project's Bell Cow Awards

A Bell Cow Coach provides us a model from whom we can learn deeply and meaningfully about coaching. The term “bell cow” is not just a catchy reference to Wisconsin’s proud dairy heritage, but a useful metaphor for leadership.

Tradition has it that farmers have been known place a large bell around the neck of the “lead cow” in a herd. Knowing that the other cows tend to congregate around the lead cow, the herd can easily be found by the farmer, even in the biggest of fields or roughest of terrains. The farmer listens for the clang of the bell and knows that by finding the bell cow, they’ll find the whole herd.

What’s interesting to note about bell cows is that the other cows naturally follow them. They watch, learn from, and follow the bell cows. Bell cows pace the herd and model the way to go.

In a similar fashion, we can each benefit from “bell cows” in our own lives. We can observe, listen to, learn from, and, in some cases, emulate leaders we admire. Bell cow coaches.

The Wisconsin Coaching Project identifies, honors and learns from Bell Cows. These leaders change lives. They grow the good around them.

Our past Bell Cow honorees include:

Bruce Larson, Somerset HS, for leading a values-based football program.

Jeff Staus, Let Kids Fly & Arrowhead HS, for developing a healthy accessible youth sports program.

Marques Flowers, Madison Memorial HS, for leading a relationship-driven basketball program.

Victor and Dawn Barnett, Running Rebels Community Organization, for engaging and mentoring young people in Milwaukee.

Karissa Niehoff, National Federation of High School Associations, for championing school-based sports and activities throughout the US.

Fred Glass, Indiana University Athletics, for providing values-based leadership in an athletic department.

Lora Staveness, Edgewood HS, for establishing steady, long-term relationships with basketball team members.

Pat Rice, Waunakee HS, for leading an innovative and inclusive football program.

Bonnie Blair and Dave Cruikshank, DASH and US Olympic Speedskating, for cultivating cross-generational mentorship and building a sport.

Sidney Moncrief, Milwaukee Bucks, for leading with the heart and the mind.

Bill Schultz, Miracle League of Dane County, for creating athletics and life opportunities for children with special needs.


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